[Guest Post] Pint-Size PenPals

Postcards in the classroom - Koala Bears

Today’s guest blogger is LetterMo Community Member Bridget Larsen, who is originally from the island of Fiji in the South Pacific and now calls Brisbane, Queensland in Australia home. One of her favourite and ongoing passions is crafting in all forms: Mixed Media, Card Making, Scrapbooking and Photography. She designs and teaches at craft stores, retreats and craft shows around Australia and at a retreat in the US. Be sure to check out her blog and Pinterest page.

I started letter writing when I was 12 years old and loved every aspect of it. I moved to emails and texts but missed seeing a handwritten letter in my mailbox so I started penpalling again 3 years ago and have met lots of lovely people around the world. I also met face to face with a few people here in Australia through postcrossing.

So I will be Guestblogging for Lettermo today with a wonderful story that started from a chance encounter with a dedicated school teacher in Illinois USA who is a member of Postcrossing. I happened to come across her request for postcrossers to send postcards to her 5 year old pupils who loved her postcards that she received and wanted their own. Each year has as different set of children to write to. This will be my second year of sending to her students. I wanted to be a part of her class curriculum because the trend of letter writing is fast becoming obsolete with technology ruling the world.

I sent the children Tim Tam biscuits, they are best eaten by biting off a little of both ends and sucking your coffee or tea through the biscuit. The factory is just down the road from where we live. The children loved it. I also sent baby koala soft toys for each of them, and Australian Girl Guide biscuits. Connie told me they were a hit. I sent them some vegemite too which is a favourite spread of every child in Australia and the Pacific-somehow that was not a favourite and is an acquired taste.

Package sent to students with many stamps
I wanted to put as many different stamps possible on the box. Australia has some beautiful philatelic stamps.

My postcards that I sent them are about the animals in Australia. Connie does lessons about the animals and most things I send them. She has set up walls with all our postcards from around the world.

The above photos are courtesy of Connie Szorc and have been printed with her permission.

I received from them this month a wonderful parcel which was overwhelming. Connie knew that I love cooking and recipes so she got together with the parents to make a cookbook of their favourite recipes to send to me. I’m going to be trying every recipe in that book.

Cookbook from the kids and families

These are the recipe postcards they also bought and write on. I chose to write to all 22 of the students, I couldn’t just pick a few.

Connie said this programme she has going for the children have been truly life changing for their young lives. It has definitely been life changing for me as I have never had penpals so young. The innocence in their writing is so refreshing.

I asked Connie if she would like to contribute to this guest blog and the following is what she wrote:

My name is Connie, and I am a preschool teacher at Batavia Covenant Preschool, Batavia, IL USA. For a very long time I had been wanting to find pen pals for students and for some reason it never seemed to work out. As chance would have it I came across Postcrossing and it truly changed my classroom. My original intention was for my students to see a world beyond their backyard. I hoped we might learn a little about geography, different kinds of foods, fun activities children around the world might enjoy, and of course learn about different native animals. What I never expected was how Postcrossing and letter writing could have turned into so much more. One very special day I was lucky enough to meet Bridget from Australia. She wanted to share Australia with all of my students. She told us about koala bears and kangaroos. We took time to read books about Australia, and then find it on the map. We read all we could about koalas and kangaroos. Then one day a package came filled with postcards and information and best of all Tim Tams. We all learned how much we loved those cookies. Bridget also told us about a food called Vegemite, we had never heard of it, but after a trip to a local store that deals in different cultural foods, we found it. We discovered we liked Tim Tams much more than Vegemite.

Postcards and writing started out as a way for my class to learn about the world we live in, instead we have made many friends. My students now understand the value of a written note, and they have learned they can do a random act of kindness just by picking up a pencil (or crayon) and tell someone about their day. The best part, because they are young their parents have become just as involved. Bridget not only touched my classroom with her letters and words, but she has touched their families as well.

What we have come to learn from Postcrossing and letter writing is that people all around the world are pretty amazing. We now think of Bridget as one of our best friends. All I have to do is say we received postcards from Bridget and my students know exactly who I mean.

My student’s parents often tell me how much they love this project, and I say “I do too!”

Running Out Of People To Write To?

We are entering the final full week of the Month of Letters! Hopefully you’ve started getting some replies to the letters and postcards and packages you’ve sent out or letters from your LetterMo participating friends. However, if you are starting to run out of people to write to, we have some suggestions for finding grateful recipients:

And for penpals you can write to throughout the year, consider joining the Letter Writers Alliance or The League of Extraordinary Penpals or Postcrossing.com.

Tell Us About: The Most Memorable Letters You’ve Received

a little sketchbook love letter... by laurencreates365 on Instagram

Getting personal letters in the mail is still pretty rare, even with this yearly challenge and the valiant efforts of entities like the Letter Writers Alliance. That means many of them are special in some way because they arrived in our mailbox at all. Still, there are letters that stick with one, perhaps because of who sent it, what they said, the envelope it came in, the package it came attached to, even the stamp used.

We’d love for you to share your most memorable letters in the comments below. Tell us the story of it–the parts that aren’t too personal, of course. Do you still have it?

image credit – @laurencreates365 on Instagram

Our Favorite Valentines

We saw a bunch of wonderful (and sometimes funny) Valentines on Instagram and Twitter the past week! Here are some of our favorites:

We reshared many more on our Instagram account. Check it out and keep tagging posts with #lettermo!

Share Your Favorite Stamps

wonder woman stamps from an Instagram post by @kcharleton1109

Stamps are an awesome form of art, don’t you think? They’re tiny, they’re meant to be marked on, they get put on envelopes and sent out into a cruel world of rain and wind and automatic sorting machines. Some are placed without a second thought, their only purpose as proof of payment for a service. Others are coveted and used judiciously to reflect something about the sender or something about the recipient. Sometimes both.

Every year for Month of Letters I buy a stock of stamps, and every year I end up with surplus because I don’t want to use up the good ones (like the circular Batman logo ones!) on just any old letter and every trip to a new post office means the chance to grab a design I don’t have yet.

It’s a problem.

I bet more than one of you out there have this problem as well.

Even if you don’t, I know you have a stamp or even several stamps you bought for your own letter sending purposes or received in the mail so far. Snap a picture and share it with us on Twitter and Instagram using the #lettermo hashtag. Later this month I’ll share some of the coolest ones on the blog.

image credit: @kcharleton1109 on Instagram

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love Letter Bundle

A day for love! Whether that love is romantic, familial, or platonic, it should be celebrated. So put aside the cynicism about corporate manufacturing of holidays and look for ways to express your love for someone close today. If you haven’t mailed a Valentine, grab an index card and a pen and write a sweet note to hand deliver. If you want some inspiration on that point, read this post.

Here’s another way to spread love in the world beyond today.

Oh, and don’t forget to share pictures of your Valentines using the #lettermo hashtag on Twitter and Instagram!

Guest Post: Creating Stamp Jewelry by Sara Glassman

Letter Writers Alliance stap necklace

Today’s guest blogger is LetterMo Community Member Sara Glassman, a bookseller, school librarian, jewelry maker, and passionate letter writer. She has a stationary and postcard addiction that she is not trying very hard to recover from. This is her fourth year participating in LetterMo. Be sure to check out her blog, Twitter, and Instagram.

One of my favorite parts about getting letters is looking at the stamps my correspondents have used. With mail art and general envelope design being so popular it is rare to get an envelope with a simple flag stamp these days. Most of my letters have two or three coordinating stamps of varying denomination. They are tiny paintings on every envelope.

I’m always loved stamps. When I was eight, my mom got me a First Day Cover subscription from the Post Office. Once a month, they would mail me a fancy envelope with a special stamp. They all went into a special presentation book. (Although, there were apparently two Glassmans in my city who were part of the program and we kept getting each other’s packages.)

First Day Cover Bugs Bunny

My mother had a wealth of vintage stamps from her own stamp collecting days. I marveled at the stamps in soft reds or greens, but I never really knew what to do with them except paste them into a scrapbook. As I got older I realized the potential for collage, but it still didn’t quite fill the itch I had to do something really special with the stamps I was receiving. And then much, much later I started making jewelry. And I realized that I had finally found the exact thing that I wanted.

The first stamp I used was an amazing dragon stamp from Botswana. My friend was there with the Peace Corps and she wrote to me frequently. Botswana had some beautiful stamps! I’ve also been active in PostCrossing for several years, which has brought me some beautiful stamps from various parts of the world.

necks made with dragon stamp from Botswana

The actual process of making the necklaces is fairly simple.

  1. Find a stamp you like. If it’s been stuck to an envelope or postcard already, soak it in a bowl of warm water until the glue loosens. Then lay the stamp out to dry. (I usually dry them face down just in case there is some glue left.)
  2. Decide what size pendant you want to make. I usually give the stamp a small 1 or 2cm border. Cut a piece of thin cardboard to fit. (The backing board the post office uses when they ship stamps is ideal!)
  3. Find a background paper that compliments your stamp. Scrapbooking paper or origami paper are my usual go-to papers for this. You can find so many beautiful patterns and colors. Tissue paper will also work, but you usually need several layers.
  4. Coat the cardboard with ModPodge and wrap the paper around the cardboard. You can either leave the seams showing or cut a backing piece to fit. That is entirely up to you.
  5. Use the ModPoge again to stick the stamp to the pendant. You can center it or offset it if you’d like. Coat the entire front with ModPoge and then when that dries, flip it over and coat the back.
  6. eyeletsOnce everything has dried completely, use a scrapbooking eyelet tool to punch holes and then set the eyelets. I often put another eyelet at the bottom so I can hang a few beads. This can dress up the pendant and also give it a bit more weight once you’re wearing it.
  7. The final step is to add cord and there you are! If you want to get fancy, you can use chain, silk ribbon, or anything else you like.

I will warn you, once you’ve seen how simple it is, it can be very difficult not to eye every bit of paper or scrap of decoration on an envelope as something to make wearable. I hope you find some beautiful stamps to wear.